Restrictions on outdoor watering are still in effect for Columbia County, but they might soon become statewide.
Sprinklers run in the Village of Jones Creek off Furys Ferry Road.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The mandatory outdoor watering mandates imposed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Protection Division were lifted after last year's rainy spring and summer, but the year-round water conservation plan is still active for county residents, said Billy Clayton, the county's water and sewer director.
"We have got a good strong water system and still are making a lot of improvements to it, and we are still under construction in a lot of areas," Clayton said. "We just want to provide the very highest level of service to our folks and being a little conservative a long the way in order to do that, we think, is a smart thing."
County residents and businesses with odd-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with no hourly limits. Homeowners with even-numbered addresses are allowed to water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. No outdoor watering is permitted Mondays.
Water usage recently rose dramatically from the average wintertime usage of 10 to 12 million gallons a day to about 20 million gallons per day countywide, Clayton said.
The county's water system can provide up to 39 million gallons a day, but with expansions and new facilities being constructed on Point Comfort Road and Halali Farm Road, the county's capacity will rise to 50 million gallons per day when they projects are completed by mid-summer, Clayton said.
"That is going to give us a lot more water, but it is still not a bad idea to conserve," Clayton said.
But Clayton added that the sparse rains from winter and early spring did not provide the much-needed soil moisture for spring planting, and it looks like summer might not be much wetter.
Greg Poteet, co-owner of EnviroSource in Martinez, said his business - including lawn maintenance and sprinkler installation and repair - has jumped since temperatures began rising.
"We have gotten tons of calls on repairs and installs," Poteet said. "People want to get the systems up and going for the summer. It has really picked up. It was that hot weather that all of a sudden came on us like that."
The long, severe drought that ended with last year's abundant spring showers taught state leaders that conservation should be a preventative measure instead of a reactive one, said Kevin Chambers, state EPD communications director.
But since the state in not in a drought situation, no mandatory restrictions can be imposed.
"We began to focus on the need to conserve water," Chambers said. "The drought taught us that we better take care of our resource. So we imposed the voluntary restrictions based on the need to conserve water rather than anything that was driven by drought."
Chambers said that proposed restrictions, which are now a voluntary part of the state's Water Management Plan, will become permanent if they are approved by the Board of Natural Resources on May 26. If approved, the statewide conservation plan could go into effect as early as June 1, Chambers said.
Clayton said that Georgia's hot climate and Columbia's County's continued growth makes the water management plan even more important.
"It looks like a tough summer coming on us," he said. "It looks like conservation is going to be a way of life for Georgia, particularly for a fast-growing community like ours."
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